What does it mean to honor our heritage or remember our heritage? This is a very significant question for me. I'll tell you a little bit about my heritage and then we'll talk about clogs and Mexican Dresses.
The story of my mother's family is, at some point, set in Holland and eventually in Kerrville, Texas. She is a Dutch American! We didn't grow up with traditions or customs from the Dutch. She gave me some cookies one time from Holland, and they were delicious. When my mother was raised, her family was made of 4 people. When I was raised, we didn't spend much time with this extended family (There just weren't that many).
The story of my father's family is set in Mexico and San Antonio, Texas. His father had 7 siblings and his mother had 6 siblings. Obviously, this extended family was quite large. When I was younger, my birthday parties and many of our celebrations involved these aunts, uncles and cousins. I have explicit memories of the days we made tamales and wedding cookies together. This is my grandmother.
My heritage is a mixed culture, and yet it feels quite solid. To answer my original question about what it means to honor our heritage, I think it's very personal. My heritage involves the Dutch and the Mexicans.....God Bless America. Today, all of my grandparents' time on earth is finished. This gives me an ever deeper sense of remembering my heritage. I literally crave it sometimes. I crave the days when my extended family lived on the same block and my sisters and I ran between houses to play. I can smell the gueso right now, as I take this trip down memory lane. We had a pinata at every gathering, and I learned how to play Mexican Bingo from my grandma and great aunt. Everyone before my generation spoke Spanish and all the women knew how to make tortillas.
My parents didn't read me a book and explain what life is like as a Dutch, Mexican, American. We lived it, and each one of us defined it for ourselves. We practiced traditions from our previous generations, and we created some of our own. My parents told us stories about their childhoods. And on a really special day, we'd hear stories about my grandparents' child hoods.
I often ask myself how am I teaching my kids about "our" culture? What will happen to the traditions that I don't practice? After all, we have to use a vehicle to go see family, no longer just our feet. I don't know how to make tortillas or how to fluently speak Spanish. I don't know if it's damaging to my daughter's child hood if she hangs an Elsa from the tree and starts hitting her with a stick. :) (haha, I know it's a matter of choosing the appropriate pinata).
I decided that beyond the traditions of food and language, there are the family values that I will hand down to my children. Despite the distance between family homes, we will cherish our relationships and make time to spend together. Beyond the changes to the menu, we will eat together and commune with each other. Regardless if we sit in the garage around the same table or if we use social media, we will communicate with each other and celebrate life together. Personal connections, family unity, honesty, devotion, loyalty, respect and honor are what we will live by.
I feel that many things change from generation to generation. I believe the change is natural and can be beautiful. Throughout time, traditions either get left behind or evolve into something else. As it turns out, my husband and I are creating our own family culture. Our children will have their own memories. In their minds they'll have a new emotional address to revisit when they want some family nostalgia. I hold a vision that my children will learn our family values and remember our traditions, both the multi-generation traditions and the new ones.
I will always cherish my heritage and honor it in a personal way. To summarize, don't be surprised if you see me around town in my Mexican dress and Dutch clogs :).